Winner of over 90 different Game of the Year awards, the first season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead was almost universally acclaimed for its rich characters, engaging plot, and an art style that immediately connected it to the original comic series. Not only that, the general public seemed to respond to it as well, making it a bona fide success for the episodic delivery model. Critically acclaimed AND popular with the masses? No surprise then that Season 2 is upon us. Can it live up to the expectations set by the first game? Based on the first episode, it is off to a good start.
Episode 1 picks up right where Season 1 ended and follows Clementine as she and some of the other survivors from the first game try to pick up the pieces and move on.
If you’ve played the first game, you will have no problem jumping right in. You’re given the option of importing your Season 1 (and 400 Days) save file so that the decisions you made carry over. In this first episode, I didn’t see very much that seemed to draw from your previous decisions. The influences may have been too subtle (or I completely forgot about certain things from the first game and didn’t realize they were references at all).
If you haven’t played the first game, I recommend doing that first. I don’t think anything in this episode would be difficult for a newcomer to pick up, but the story was too good in the first game to miss. Of course, newbies won’t be sitting there like I was going “what exactly happened with character X at the end of season 1?” I played the first season right as each episode came out and already I’ve started to forget the fates of some of the survivors in the first game. Time to hit the internet!
Gameplay hasn’t changed much since Season 1. The game basically boils down to three main activities: QTEs (Quick Time Events) for the “action” scenes, conversation trees, and the occasional “old-school adventure game”-type searching the environment for objects or clues. The QTEs feel a bit less forgiving this time around and they come hot-and-heavy. The sequences they are part of are thrilling, but there were one or two that I had to repeat MANY times. The ones that seemed to get me the most had to do with moving the thumbstick in a particular direction.
The conversations are where the real meat of the gameplay is and where the most gut-wrenching decisions have to be made. I love trying to balance the desire to “say what I would REALLY say” with “what is going to piss this other character off the least”. In the end, I tried to stay true to what I think the characters’ personalities are.
Speaking of character personalities, that is the real question. It is what this series is all about. Going into this game, I was worried. Of all the characters in Season 1, Clementine was one that I liked the least. I thought she was there to give Lee a purpose and help drive the story forward, but I didn’t like her personality much. Now she is the main character? Ugh, right? I’m happy to say that by the end of the first episode, Clementine has started to warm me over. Much like Carl in the comics (or somewhat in the TV show), she’s really growing up and adapting to this new world. By the end of episode 1, she’s turned into quite a force to be reckoned with. I’m genuinely interested to see where she goes next.
As for the supporting cast, I think they’ve done a better job than the first episode of season 1 in terms of setting up some distinct personalities. There were a few characters in the first game that I had a hard time telling apart (especially playing episodes a couple of months apart). It doesn’t seem like that will be a problem this time around.
In the first game, the story was built around the quest to get to Clementine’s parents. So far, there doesn’t seem to be a specific end goal in mind. In the world that they inhabit, life right now is about surviving the next day but there are references to a looming threat. I’m sure that will ratchet up in the next episode. This one is all about setting the groundwork, getting familiar with the cast, etc.
The game still looks good on the 360 thanks to the cel-shaded art style. I’m personally a fan of it as it tends to stand up over time better than standard 3d models. The way some of the characters were colored in a few places seemed a little inconsistent. Some felt like there was a lot of texture and blending between the solid cel-shaded lines; others seemed to be much more flat. Personally, I preferred the look of the more “flat” characters.
I did have a couple of points in the game where the frame rate took a hit and the game chugged a little bit. I would’ve thought it was just my old 360 acting up again, but it seemed to happen in the same places over-and-over again (which I tested by dying a lot in the same places…yeah, that’s what I was doing).
For the most part, the music was unintrusive. There were a few scenes where it really kicked in and in those places, it fit the mood well. Sound effects and voices were up to the very high standards set in the first game.
I was a big fan of The Walking Dead Season 1 and so far, Season 2 is off to a great start. I was worried coming in about the main character and whether or not Telltale could meet their own high standards. What was I thinking? They are on a roll and I’m excited to get on to Episode 2.
8 out of 10
Review by Jeff